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Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 5

January 29, 2013 Leave a comment
  • Here is the final installment from these letters to the Northwest Yearly Meeting (and to Friends beyond). Please feel free to engage these as you see fit, and to pass them on as you feel led. The other letters are here: Letter 1, Letter 2, Letter 3, Letter 4.

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Dear Northwest Yearly Meeting,

We represent the young adults of the friends church, and this year we have taken an active step in learning about the history of our denomination so that we can have relevant input into the workings of the Yearly Meeting. As we studied some of the most influential quakers, a common theme arose. To many of these quakers, meeting together as a body was not the most important of their spiritual activities.

Rather, meeting served as support for the work they were doing outside the church. For instance, take the example of Margaret Fell. She found her purpose in working for prison reform. Instead of meeting being the spiritual climax of the week, it probably served as her day of rest. She was so active in doing God’s work, that meeting was the support for that work, instead of the work itself.

When we juxtaposed that with our experience of meetings today, many of us would probably accredit Sundays with being the spiritual climax of the week. Even past that, many of us are around each other for the rest of the week as well. Jesus often lived and worked with outcasts of society. This has led us to believe that we should not spend our lives only among each other, as we are then directly creating outcasts.

Using Jesus and quakers like Fell as examples, we would like to see the church actively support seeking out, living among, and ultimately loving the marginalized, and claiming this as the lifestyle we are called to live.

Sincerely,

Young Adults in the Friends Leadership Program

An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 3

January 24, 2013 2 comments

Here is the third installment of these open letters from youth to the Northwest Yearly Meeting. Please also read Letter 1 and Letter 2. I welcome any insight or feedback you may have.

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Dear Northwest Yearly Meeting,

We hope you all find yourselves doing well and blessed in life.  We are coming to you with this letter regarding our thoughts on bettering our perspective of diversity in our yearly meeting, which will help us become a more welcoming community.

We believe that if our community were to be more welcoming of different opinions, we would also become more openminded and accepting to others.  Having a the same views on life should not be the main focus of our meeting.  Our focus should be on God and on loving each other while worshiping together.  A relationship with God is between that person and God, and others are in no place to judge someone else’s relationship.

Throughout our studies of Quakers in this course we have learned that throughout history Quakers have been a leading voice of radical and welcoming movements.  For example, Quakers were one of the first to put women in leadership and provided assistance in the underground railroad.  From the beginning of the early Quaker movement it has been deeply in our roots that everyone is equal.  Equality has played a strong role on how we relate to others in and out of the church.  Quakers believe that the Light of God is in everyone and therefore everyone has the ability to have God speak through them. We believe that this should in fact include everyone.  People who have opinions that differ from our own still have the Light of God in them and therefore we should still hold them with the same respect.

We hope you will hold this close to your hearts and discern on this deeply.  As a yearly meeting that believes in equality and that everyone can have God speak through them, our main goal should be to love and worship together and we should not let diversity in opinion get in the way of that.  We should still be able to be in community together without having unity in all of our opinions and views on life.

Peace,

Quaker students from George Fox University

Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 2

November 11, 2011 3 comments

See Part 1 here. This is a piece I have been working on for George Fox University in its continued commitment to more fully represent the Kingdom of God.

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There is inherent in the word “church” a structure often defined by rigidity. A byproduct of institutionalization, this rigidity often carries with it negative connotations that reformation-minded people long to shatter into indistinguishable pieces from which new life might spring.

These “forms” were the very thing a young George Fox subversively exposed when he encountered the active, living Christ whose voice enlivened a soul thirsty for something more than the unimaginative and oppressive church of his time. His revelation led to a conviction that living in communion with the ever-present God required him to, “Walk cheerfully over all the earth answering that of God in everyone.”

His revelation was one defined by action, by a living connection between what one believed and how one lived in the world. His convictions resonated with the people of his time, and what came to life through this revelation cannot be categorized as just another institution; rather a movement. It was a movement that sought unity through equality; that sought truth wherever it might be found; that lived boldly in spite of the difficulties they faced, because their message was not about them – it was about the living and active Christ available to all people.

From its inception, Quakers have emphasized the immediacy of God through the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we are taught dwells within and in the midst of humanity. As people created in the image of God, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, true faith begins by recognizing the need for an intimate knowledge of the living Christ and living in such a way that values the work of the living Christ in others.

As one author has noted, “The Quaker apocalypse was a revolutionary ground swell aimed at transforming the entire society” (Gwyn, 319). This transformation was found in, among other things, the way women were valued, in relationships with Native Americans and in the abolitionist movement.

One of the earliest indications of Gospel order –  a Quaker understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as something that rightly orders all of life – was seen in the importance role women played from the very beginnings of the Quaker movement. From its meager beginning, women were enlisted as preachers, leaders and integral to the spread of Christ’s message as far as possible.

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More coming tomorrow!

Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 1

November 10, 2011 4 comments

I’ve been working on a short document on Quakers and diversity. This is part of our Theological Statement on Diversity at George Fox University, and while there could be a lot written about the subject, I tried to give a brief overview in a small amount of space. Over the next few days I’ll post snippets of it…

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Rufus Jones has written, “What does happen…to persons whose inner life has been vivified and quickened, is that they begin at once to feel a passion for the enrichment and enlargement of the lives of others” (Jones, 44). This inward awakening, this belief in the immediate presence of Jesus Christ in every human led the earliest Quakers to develop a way of living their religious convictions through what became known over time as the Quaker testimonies – simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship.

These testimonies, described by Dandelion as the “consequences of the spiritual life as expressed in daily life,” (221) are the basis for any Quaker understanding of and investment in any form of diversity. If one truly believes that Christ is present to all people, then there can be no other response but to create and invest in communities that reflect the entirety of God’s creation. What follows are examples of these beliefs as experienced in the Quaker movement. Though they are not exhaustive, they begin to paint a picture of the important work done by Quakers over the past 300 years.

There is inherent in the word “church” a structure often defined by rigidity. A byproduct of institutionalization, this rigidity often carries with it negative connotations that reformation-minded people long to shatter into indistinguishable pieces from which new life might spring.

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More to come tomorrow…

Occupy my Heart

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment

This afternoon I shared a devotional with the community of faculty and staff at George Fox. Here is the text:

James 2:1-13

It seems like the whole world, or at least 99% of it has recently been attempting to preach a sermon from this passage in James. Partiality is real in the world. This is, among other things, a reason for the many occupy movements happening across the US. Watching these movements from a distance it is easy to have an opinion about them – and some of us feel more strongly than others about what these groups are nonviolently protesting.

But I imagine for most of us it feels fairly distant. Some of us might wonder if the protest is something Jesus would get behind, or if it is just something being fueled by the very thing it is protesting. And some of us have no idea what it is.

Whatever our opinion might be about the occupy movement, none of us can afford to ignore what is at the root of these protests – a people who feel overlooked, neglected, left behind or devalued by someone else.

This is what James is writing about in the beginning of chapter 2. There is inherent in you and I the ability to judge others.

We do it often. And it comes fairly easily to us.

In an academic community the way we judge others might be talked about in terms of:

–       Letters after one’s name

–       Books or articles published

–       Students served

–       Attendance at programs

–       National recognition

But it might also take other more discreet or personal forms:

–       Feeling like you could do better than that person

–       Believing your ideas make the most sense

–       A belief that no one values the work you are doing

–       A belief that your work is more important than the work someone else is doing

And many, many more.

James states that the opposite of judgment, of partiality is unconditional love. But the premise of unconditional love is much easier than the actual practice of it.

Let’s ask the Spirit to teach us what it means to be a community who is practicing unconditional love rather than favoritism. Instead of occupying a space of land to protest favoritism, let’s occupy our hearts with a mercy that triumphs over judgment.